Moving to Israel is a dream that many Jews from Jewish communities around the globe nurtured for 2,000 years.

Today, there is a Jewish State of Israel for Jews to make aliyah to. In a short 100 years, Israel has been transformed from a desolate place of sand and harsh sun to a place teeming with modern homes, skyscrapers and swimming pools.

Yet despite the enormous improvement in the materialistic standard of living, many Jews are still avoiding making the move to Israel, regret moving to Israel, or even, are moving out of Israel to other countries.

In this category, you’ll find a number of different articles looking at many of the different aspects and benefits of moving to Israel – the cons, as well as the pros. It’s certainly true that making aliyah  – especially if you’re moving to Israel without a job, or as a senior, or with school-age children – can be extremely challenging.

But the spiritual benefits of making aliyah are unparalleled. If you care more about the soul aspects of life than the material aspects of owning a large property and having lots of cheap holidays and clothes from Target (to name but a few of things some immigrants miss from the old country), then you will probably never regret making the move.

Some of the other things we cover on this blog include:

  • Moving to Israel with no money
  • What to expect if you move back to Israel from another country- as a toshav hozer
  • Where to find schools in Israel in English
  • Moving to Israel to convert
  • Retiring to Israel
  • Moving around within Israel – trying to find the right community
  • Is it worth moving to Israel – the material, emotional and spiritual aspects you need to consider, before making the decision
  • Converting to Judaism and then moving to Israel – what you need to know
  • Aliyah after 50
  • Aliyah and work options if you don’t speak Hebrew
  • Moving to Israel – the Jewish and spiritual dimension
  • Torah sources on making aliyah

There is no place where God isn’t – Rebbe Nachman of Breslev

As often happens, when I opened up Likutey Moharan I got to a lesson (number 33) that seemed very appropriate to the whole discussion of finding God even in those places where it appears He isn’t.

Like, in all those conversations we all have with the ‘difficult’ characters in our lives who like to refer to us as ‘parasites’ or ‘leeches’; or all the difficult circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in; or even, just in our mundane interactions with the ‘real’, or materialistic world.

Sometimes, it can be so easy to forget that God really is behind all this stuff.

Here’s a little of what Rabbenu says about the subject:

“…one must know that ‘The world is filled with His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3), and that there is no place where He is not (Tikkuney Zohar #57, 91b) – He fills all worlds and surrounds all worlds (Zohar III 225a)…..

“As our Sages have already revealed to us, in all material phenomena and in all foreign languages one can find Godliness, for without His Godliness, they have no life and no existence at all.

“However, that life-force and Godliness is minimal and in extreme constriction, only enough life-force to sustain that thing and no more. This is because God contacted His Godliness in many and various constrictive ways…until the central point of the material world, which is the realm of the klipot (forces of evil)….

“And this is the meaning of the Yerushalmi verse, “If someone asks you, ‘Where is your God?’ answer him, ‘In the great metropolis of Rome.’….This person who asked…is certainly sunken in the realm of the klipot, for he has separated himself from the Omnipresence…and expressed his belief that God doesn’t exist where he is.

“Thus tell him: “Even where you are, sunken in the realm of klipot, even there you can find His Godliness, for He sustains everything…and from there you can bind yourself to Him and return to Him in complete repentance.

“He is not far from you, only that where you are, there are many concealing garments.”

All of us can come back to God in the blink of an eye, because wherever we find ourselves in the world, including in all the spiritual filth and heresy that unfortunately characterizes so much of modern life, there too, we can find God.

All we have to do is look.

Today I went to the zoo. By myself.

Back when my kids were small, I used to use them as an excuse for doing things like going to the zoo, but now that they’re both teens, the zoo has fallen off their list of ‘cool things to do’. This morning, they left for a few days’ of camp up North with some friends, my husband went to yeshiva and then work, and I was left with the whole day stretching out before me.

Many of the women my age (42) in my circles (Israeli, frum) would kill to have a whole day to themselves, I know. But my problem is often the exact opposite: sometimes, I’m really, really lonely.

Strange to say, since we moved to the big city of Jerusalem, I’ve been less lonely than when I used to live in my ‘cosy’ communities of only a few thousand people.

When you ‘fit’ your community, then living somewhere small and intimate can be wonderful. When you don’t ‘fit’ – and let’s be clear, that I have never, ever ‘fit’ anywhere much, hard as I tried – then it can be a recipe for complete despair and mental illness.

It’s not always so easy being one of the rare people who aren’t popping anti-depressants just to get through the day, or who doesn’t have a Facebook account arranging their social life, or who keeps looking for more meaning in life than shopping, refurbishing, eating out and keeping fit.

Here in Jerusalem, I also don’t ‘fit’, but at least I live somewhere so eclectic and strange that I have that in common with pretty much all my neighbours.

In most ways, I’ve made my peace with being alone so much of the time. I’m anyway a writer, and the aloneness is good for the creative process…and it gives me tons of time to talk to God…and it enables me churn books out at the rate of one every three months…

On the days when I’m writing, and lost in my internal world of gathering knowledge, splicing information together and turning out neat, bite-sized articles about all the different stuff I’m learning about, I don’t feel lonely.

But on the days when I don’t feel like typing so much, or I don’t have so much to say, or I really just want to spend some time interacting with real people, sometimes the loneliness is very intense. But you know the weird thing I recently realized? I think in 2016, pretty much all of us are lonely – and the most lonely people of all are the ones surrounded 24/7 by people.

A couple of months’ back, Hashem had me bump into someone I used to know from the old country. Back then, we were pretty good friends (or at least, so I thought) and we were both very, very sociable. She stayed in Britain, I moved to Israel, we fell out of touch. In the subsequent 11 years, I went from being a social butterfly to being a practical recluse, but I was sure that my old friend would still be tripping the light fantastic with 500 other outgoing couples, just like in the old days.

Turns out, I was plain wrong.

My friend hangs out with just two couples these days. Even in London, socializing has apparently gotten a whole lot harder than it used to be.

Why is this? Some people will blame email and i-Phones, and they may well have a point because it’s hard to concentrate on the person in front of your face when the person sending you smileys gets announced by a ‘ping’. Others will blame the stressful pace of life and work, and they may also have a point because an exhausted person can’t do anything much except veg on a couch and stare at the wall.

But I think something much deeper is going on. In the past, there just weren’t so many people who were highly-strung, crazy, selfish and just plain nasty. Interactions weren’t as fraught or loaded. There weren’t as many ‘narcissist’ type people trying to manipulate you and make you feel bad about yourself. Very few people had the sort of medication-induced brain damage that renders a person unable to be real, really interested in other people, or really ‘there’, which is now unfortunately all too common.

In short, a lot of us have been finding that compared to spending a few hours with bona fide crazy people, it’s actually much easier to be by ourselves these days, even though it’s often lonely.

I know that’s what’s contributed to my own circumstances, because while there are a lot of people I could call, so many of them are so complicated and so unpleasant or self-absorbed to be around, I often just prefer my own company.

So it was that today, I went to the zoo by myself. I found myself a quiet corner under a tree to sit and contemplate the world around me, and to talk to God about how lonely I was feeling.

Why do I spend so much of my life alone, God? Why have you arranged things to work out that way in my life, that my days aren’t stretched to breaking by a large family, or a full-on job, or a large circle of friends? Why do I seem to be the only person here, who came to the zoo by myself?

My heart always knows the answers to these questions, and it’s when I talk to God that they get communicated to my head, and when I finally get some peace.

I have many ‘signs’ I’m looking for, to tell me that Moshiach has finally come. One of the biggest is that I’m going to be sociable again, and not so lonely.

Last week, I read something that completely changed my take on how difficult my life seems to have been the last decade:

Don’t collect things, collect experiences.

By the ‘stuff’ measure, the last few years’ have been almost a complete bust. I have less net worth at 42 than I had at 23 – and that’s sometimes a pretty painful realization. (Hopefully at least one of my books will take off big-time in the next 20 years or so, so I can afford to retire at some point.)

Buying stuff has been very far down my ‘to do’ list for years now, partially because I just couldn’t afford much, and partially because the shine went off all the gashmius and I realized that keeping the clutter, gadgets and outfits to a minimum actually makes me feel much happier.

But that London part of me still occasionally registers its displeasure with the way things have turned out. I mean, I can’t afford my own house! I don’t have a bath! I don’t have a garden! I can’t entertain more than two (thin) people at a time in my compact flat! Etc etc etc

London Rivka tells me: ‘You know, I hate to share this, but I think we might officially be a loser…’

And until I read that line about collecting experiences instead of stuff, I didn’t really have much to argue about.

But now? Now it’s all different!

Because while my bank account has been pretty empty the last decade, my experience bank has been full to busting. I’ve been to Uman 8 times; I lived in so many different places in Israel (and elsewhere); I’ve met so many interesting people; I’ve lived 50 lifetimes in the past 10 years, and packed so much into every day.

Now, I go to the Kotel pretty much every Friday night – and it’s an amazing experience that money really would be no substitute for. I’ve seen my kids blossom and grow into the most amazing young people, with far more insight, maturity and wisdom than I ever had at their age. Me and my husband could write 50 books about the challenges we’ve had to weather in our 19 years of marriage, from multiple moves, to multiple bankruptcies, to health issues, family issues, infertility issues, crazy friend issues, crazy rabbi issues – you name it, we’ve had a dose of it.

And until last week, I’d filed all that stuff away in the ‘debit’ column, but no more!

Now I’m starting to see that every single experience I had gave me something priceless. I learned so much. I grew so much. I hope I improved so much and worked on a bunch of bad middot that otherwise I wouldn’t have got near in a million years, if I was still pulling things off on the ‘more stuff’ front.

As time goes on, I’m truly feeling like the stuff comes along as the cherry, once you’ve experienced whatever it is you’re meant to, and squeezed every last drop of knowledge out of it.

So if you’re currently struggling to have much to show for yourself materially-speaking (and even if you’re not…) I invite you to join me in changing the focus completely around, and looking at life as more a collection of experiences, than a collection of things.

It’s a small mental switch, but it’s put me in the best mood I’ve been in for ages.